Sunday, November 18, 2012

Amsterdam




It's quaint, modern, laid back, fast-paced, old-fashioned and edgy all at the same time.  Amsterdam is a uniquely beautiful city.  We visited over Veteran's Day weekend with our friends, Alison and Travis, and had a wonderful time.  None of us had been to Amsterdam before, and I think it was all we expected, and more. 



It was a short one hour flight from Stuttgart.  We arrived in the afternoon and checked into our apartment.  It was a nice place in a popular neighborhood in the canal district.  Just down our street were a wide selection of bars, restaurants, and clubs, some more exclusive than others.  (There were a ton of Argentinian steakhouses throughout the city...anyone know what's up with that??)  We ate lunch at a place down the street that had an Italian, Mexican, and Argentinian menu.  It was pretty random, a bit like the city.

Our living room in the apartment
We spent our first day there doing what I love best;  wondering around, walking whichever way looks interesting.  In Amsterdam, every way you look is interesting!  There were actually little bits of blue skies that day, which I think is a novelty in the fall.  While walking around, we quickly found out that being a pedestrian in Amsterdam is a dangerous sport!  You have to watch out in every direction for street cars, buses, angry little smart cars, and by far the most dangerous vehicles were the bikes!  They were everywhere and intersections were pretty much a free-for-all.


We made our way through the old town, admiring the bridges and hundreds of canals, the stately houses that line the canals, and enjoying some Dutch beer along the way. That evening we ate at a traditional Dutch restaurant, at my request.  The food was wholesome and stick-to-your-bones good.  I had a hotchpotch, which was mashed potatoes mixed with carrots and onions topped with beef and gravy.  Kyle had chicken sate with peanut sauce.  The chicken sate seems more Thai to me than anything, but it was pretty much on every restaurant's menu.  Good thing it's tasty!  The food that Amsterdam is the most known for is the herring.  They eat it pickled or raw, sometimes on a sandwich with raw onion and pickles.  We weren't too interested in trying that!

We started off the next day at a bar/pancake house (random, right!?).  Pancakes are really popular there, but they're definitely much different than American pancakes.  They're HUGE and very thin, more like an unfolded crepe that can be topped off sweet or savory.  From the pancake house, we headed to the original Heineken Brewery for a tour.  We got to see the old brewery and taste wort.  Then, we were turned into bottles of beer and rode through the beer making process on a virtual reality ride.  Pretty fun!  There were a lot of interactive displays and cool things to see and play with.  The tour came with  three beers along the way...it was 5 o'clock somewhere!

Ready for the Heineken experience!
The brew master stirring up some wort
 
 We hit the big street market after the brewery tour.  There you could buy anything from lingerie, to fresh fish, to cheese or waffles.  We went for the waffles covered in chocolate!  They were gooey, warm, chocolaty goodness!  Travis also indulged in a fresh stroop waffle, another Dutch delicacy that he became obsessed with after trying them from a German grocery store during Dutch week.

From there, we took the Heineken boat (where we drank Heineken from super cool 007 can bottles) to the town center to pick up our free bottle openers (and use the bathroom :-).  We checked out a different part of town and had a quick bite at an Irish pub.  While we were eating, we witnessed a real Dutch protest (not quite sure what they were protesting, their signs were in Dutch).  After lunch, it was back to the apartment for much needed refueling of the batteries, the i phone's and our own.

My name is Guynn, Lori Guynn.  I drink my beer neither shaken nor stirred.
Enjoying the river cruise
Everyone knows that Amsterdam is notorious for one, the "coffeeshops", aka the pot joints (haha) and two, the red light district.  While we didn't visit any coffee shops (we could certainly smell them though) we did visit the red light district after dinner, just to say we did.  It's actually a very nice, historical part of town with nice restaurants and shops.  While you're shopping for a scarf, you could also shop for a "date."  It's kinda creepy; the prostitutes stood in windows lit with red lights.  They would look at you as you walked by, or some of them were busy texting on their phones.  The street also had a variety of  adult shops and "shows".  It was definitely very interesting to see, while leaving you with a sleazy feeling at the same time.

The red light district
Just outside of the red light district
We had tickets to visit the Anne Frank house on our last full day there.  (Thanks to Alison and Travis purchasing tickets online, we didn't have to wait two hours in the cold to get in!)  We started the day with a delicious breakfast/lunch of sandwiches before heading to the house (where unfortunately you can't take pictures).  Our tour started with a 30 minute introduction.  We were then able to walk through the museum and attic apartment where Anne Frank lived with her family and another family for two years until they were captured by the Nazis.  It was really interesting and of course depressing.  It really makes you appreciate all that you have.

Kyle's lunch: open faced roast beef with capers, Parmesan, and truffle mayo
Down the street from the house.  Anne listened to the bells of that church.

More randomness
That evening we took an evening cruise on the canals.  It was really pretty to see the city from the water with the bridges and houses lit up.  We were also able to see parts of town that we never would have made it to otherwise.  


Our flight back to Stuttgart was at 4:30 the next day.  We spent our last bit of time in Amsterdam eating tasty food and doing a bit of shopping.  We had an awesome time, and Alison and Travis were great co-travelers! We would all love to go back again, maybe when it's warm and sunny!

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